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DIY Serving Trays with cabinet doors, paint, balloons, and a hairdryer

For this year’s Christmas presents for the women in our family, I finally found a use for my giant stack of old cabinet doors. I’d tested out my general plan by making a tub tray for myself, and now I was ready to tackle the project of making 7 serving trays! If you have a bunch of Shaker cabinet doors lying around, this is a great use for them. Or, I’ve heard people can go to a Habitat for Humanity Restore and find rehab-able Shaker doors. (Shaker doors are VERY popular and easy to find online for pretty cheap too.)

Anyway, here are a few different ways I made the art for each tray, plus how I did the surrounding wood and hardware for them all.

Supplies:

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Step 1: Remove hardware and fill holes. The first step for all the doors was to remove the old cabinet door hardware. All I had to do was use a screwdriver and take off the hinges and door pull for each.

BEFORE: Old cabinet doors.

Side note: Since these were going to be serving trays with pretty tops, there wasn’t much reason to make the undersides super-nice. The hinge holes in the undersides were huge, besides, so there wasn’t much I could to do for those. So, for the undersides, I just sanded down the surrounding, raised parts nicely when I sanded later. That inside edge is HARD to sand well (I’d learned this with my tub tray), so I just left the whole middle, lower section of each tray alone since they were in decent shape.

Once the hinges and pulls were off, I had the screw hole on the top side (from the door pull) to deal with. I only had one hole, but if you’ve got a full handle, you’ll have 2 holes. Either way, these screw holes are easy to fill with putty. Just make sure you use a putty that is stainable/paintable.

Step 2: Sand. With the putty in the holes, I waited until dry and then used my little handheld sander and 80-grit sandpaper. I started on the putty and got that nice and smooth. Then I sanded all around the raised parts – top, bottom, and sides – so that the wood was smooth and nice.

I don’t know how many layers of paint and oily stain were on these doors, but they’d clearly been DIY-ed before. It took hours to get my doors sanded down to the natural wood. Once I was done, however, the wood was beautiful!

Tray underside sanded.

Step 3: Spray paint the tray’s interior/lower part. To give the “artsy” part of the tray a nice base coat, I used spray paint. But first, I used painters tape and taped off the nicely sanded wood surrounds, making sure to make a nice straight line around the edge. (This tape I left in place through the next step as well.)

Next, I simply sprayed a nice light coat of paint over this middle section. I used white for most of the trays, but I also black and even gold – you could use any color you like! I used spare paint, and even doing all of these trays, I didn’t finish off any partially-used can. You just need a light coat for a base color – it doesn’t take much.

Taped and sprayed with a white base coat.

Side note: You could do this to the underside too, but I didn’t bother. Again, you’re not going to see the underside much anyway.

Step 4: Make your art! I stared at each tray for a while before deciding how to do them. 😜 I had general colors in mind for each of my gift-recipients, and I looked back through my Pinterest “DIY Inspirations” pins for different patterns or methods to try. I ended up doing acrylic paint pours (I’d done this before on turntables), marble spray painting (I’d done this before on a countertop), geode-ish epoxy art (done before but with a new twist), and acrylic paintings with balloons (totally new to me!) on these 7 trays.

For ALL of these, it’s important to remember not to overdo it with the amount of paint you use. Unlike painting on canvas, the paint here has nowhere to run off because it stays in the center of your tray. If you use too much paint, it’ll be too thick to dry evenly and you might end up with cracks. It’s also important to know when to stop, because when working with this contained space it’s really easy to muddy the paint, especially along the sides where you don’t have a lot of room to work.

Paint pouring method: I used this method on 2 of my trays with white base coats. First I spread on a thin layer of white Floetrol, wiping it into the corners and right along the edges too. This will blend into your white undercoat and allows the rest of the paint to flow more easily.

Starting with white Floetrol.

Next, I poured and sprinkled my colors in a little trail across my tray, starting near a bottom corner and stopping well short of the other side so it would have room to “blow” out without hitting the other side.

Here’s an acrylic pour paints box set very similar to the one I used (unfortunately that one is unavailable now), but this has all the same colors.

For my green tray, I used I think every green in my box of acrylics plus a touch of bronze to add an accent.

Green color trail.

For my blue tray, I used all my blues plus again that bronze color.

Blue color trail.

There was no real rhyme or reason to how I made my color trails, but I did start with my darkest blues/greens and go over them with lighter and lighter, ending with my sprinkled spots of the bronze.

The color trail will not look all that impressive. 😜 But this is where the hair dryer comes in! Turning on the hair dryer (with a concentrator on), I positioned it to blow the color trail out from the bottom corner all the way to the other side. I made sure to use one steady pass to blow out my trail, keeping it even while being careful not to splatter paint.

Using the hairdryer to blow out the paint.

I then bent over the painting and used my own hot air (haha) to blow out areas for added effects.

Literally blowing on the paint.

That was it! I didn’t want to mess it up, so I forced myself to stop fiddling and set them on shelves to dry.

Green and blue pours done.

Marble painting method: This was probably the easiest. I’d used marble spray paint on my powder room countertop, so I had an idea how to play with it.

For one of my gold-base trays, all I did was spray on the white marble paint, tilting the can in different directions until I liked the coverage. (It can look a bit like silly string, so spraying from different angles helps it look less clumpy and more natural.) With the metallic gold underneath, it looked really cool and caught the light differently as I tilted it around – sometimes the marbling looked dark, sometimes light.

Gold with white marble spray.

I also used this method on a tray with a black spray paint base, but I got creative. First I added a light dusting of metallic gold spray – not covering the black but just adding some interest. Then, I used the marble spray and went back and forth in different directions until I liked the coverage. Next I lightly sprayed black over the marbling, and then I went over it again with a spray of gold. Finally, I spritzed the whole thing with 91% isopropyl alcohol. Now it looked REALLY cool and textured. Done!

Marble spray with black and alcohol.

Geode epoxy method: There are many, many cool videos out there showing how people make geode patterns with epoxy. I mixed about 6 oz (follow the instructions of whatever epoxy you use), then divided the epoxy into a few color cups. One of my little cups had purple mica powder. Another had scarlet mica powder. Another had white epoxy dye. Another had pearl mica powder. A small cup had gold mica powder. I left a bit of the clear epoxy in my mixing cup and used this to wipe over a gold-base tray so that the rest of the epoxy would flow better (like with the Floetrol).

Here’s the mica powder set I used. I’ve used these for all my epoxy projects requiring mica powders, and these will last me a LONG time, since you only need a little teaspoon for most projects.

I took the purple, scarlet, and pearl to make little swirls over my tray. Then I used the white to make dividing outlines to separate the swirls. The last color was the gold, which I used to accent along the white. I used a silicone brush to wipe my colors and blend a little bit, and tilting the whole tray added some nice natural movement.

Epoxy swirls of purples, gold, and white.

The final step with this epoxy was to use a small kitchen torch to pop bubbles. I came back every 20 minutes or so for the next hour, and then bubbles stopped and I could leave it alone to cure overnight. (Again, go by the instructions of whatever epoxy you use. I have a full epoxy tutorial on my site as well.)

Once the epoxy tray was cured, I used a gold paint pen and traced some of my geode-ish sections. This added a cool, shiny layer of depth to the art. Plus, I went around the edges and “painted” with the gold pen around the interior sides.

Close up of gold pen.

Acrylic balloon painting: So fun! I’d never tried this before, but it can make really cool effects with your colors. It’s similar to the pouring method, but instead of trails you make little puddles of color. And instead of blowing, you use the balloon to blot the puddles. All you have to do is press the balloon gently down into the paint puddle, and as the balloon squishes out the paint, it makes cool effects. There’s enough paint on the balloon that you can make another blob somewhere else, and this will be lighter and lighter as you blot the paint off the balloon, or you can blot over your blots for layers of the effect.

First, for my mom’s tray, I used a white-base tray and spread white Floetrol in a thin layer. Then I took the colors I wanted (pinks, greens, yellows, and blue) and made little puddles in different areas. (I wanted this tray still mostly white, so I didn’t let myself get carried away.) For my few puddles, I again started with my darkest colors first, but after that I squirted colors at random and made little spots too. I also added some white to my puddles so the balloon’s blots would blend in with the white already on the tray.

Once I’d squirted on all my colors, I took a partially blown up balloon and held it over my first puddle. Then I pressed down into the puddle and twisted a bit before lifting the balloon and letting the paint drip off in little trails. Because I’d used white in my puddles, that made my blots look less round and more swirly too – that white mixed and made my blots look like cool shapes. I blotted a few extra times in different areas from my puddles, but again I wanted this one to be strongly white.

My camera of course died when I started this tray. 🤦‍♀️ But here’s how all this looked once done:

Balloon method with white.

For my MIL’s tray, I used a white-base tray with many, many puddles of greens, pinks, yellow, gold, and reds. Then I did a LOT of balloon blotting. It ended up making flower-like patterns that are really pretty.

Blotting puddles with big balloon.

Near the edges, I got smart and used a new, even smaller balloon to press near the sides and get the look I wanted right up to the sides of the tray. I also went over some of the bigger blots and added layers of the effect. I even added a few more puddles where I wanted different coloring and re-blotted. It was a pretty forgiving process!

Blotting with the little balloon.

So, I found 2 different ways to play with this balloon method – swirly blots and many blots – and I’m sure there are other tricks too!

For ALL of these methods, I pulled off the painters tape as soon as I was sure I was done – you don’t want the tape drying into your paint, or it might pull off!

Step 5: Protective epoxy layer. Once all of my trays’ artwork was done and dry, I mixed up a bunch of epoxy, made sure my trays were level, and poured clear epoxy over each, making sure the artwork was completely covered. Epoxy is self-leveling, so that was nice and I knew I’d have smooth finishes. Again, read your instructions, but this was quite easy and only required a few passes with my torch to get out bubbles.

Step 6: Stain. I used mostly a “red mahogany” stain because it looked really nice with the paint colors, but for a few I used a “natural” stain that showed the pretty wood grain patterns on those particular trays. I somewhat lazily used a spare, 4-inch roller and dunked it to stain the top, sides, and undersides of the trays. If you feel more comfortable using a brush, that’s great too. But I found I could work really fast and make a nice, smooth coat with my roller.

One of each stain I used.

Step 7: Protective top coat and/or polyurethane. You could skip this step, but I’d recommend it if your tray is going to be taking any abuse or will need to be washed off. StoneCoat Countertops has an awesome top coat that makes the epoxy super-resistant to scratches, heat, and UV damage. It’s also food-safe, which seemed like a good idea for serving trays. (Again, see the instructions for application, but it’s pretty easy.)

I also lightly went over the stain with a coat of glossy polyurethane for some added protection on the wood.

Step 8: Add hardware. I bought the same handles that I’d used on my new kitchen cabinets, partly because I really liked them and partly because I had a few extra to start off my trays. 😜 There are many ways, I’m sure, to measure off and mark your spacing for installing these handles, but I LOVE this cheat tool. You just find center, mark the holes at the right size, and you’re ready to drill the holes!

Template tool for drilling handles!

Once I drilled the holes for each handle, it was a simple matter of putting the handles in place and then screwing them on from underneath. They stayed on nice and tight!

Finally, to help keep the trays stable and to make sure the handle screws don’t scratch anything when set down, I added cabinet door bumpers to each underside corner.

Underside with handle screw and bumper.

That was it! A whole batch of serving trays from my stash of old cabinet doors. …And I have more doors, so now I just have to decide how I want to make one for myself…🤔

AFTER: All 7 trays done!
My favorite? Hard to decide.


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